What is the difference between a physiotherapist and a chiropractor?

Physiotherapists and chiropractors are both healthcare professionals who specialise in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries. While there are some similarities in their scope of practice, there are also key differences between the two professions.

Understanding physiotherapy in Singapore

jesse cai, chiropractor
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Physiotherapists, also known as physical therapists, are trained in assessing and treating a wide range of musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiopulmonary conditions. They focus on restoring movement, function, and mobility. This is achieved through techniques such as exercise therapy and manual therapy. In recent years, modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation are getting popular. However, there is a severe lack of research to support their effectiveness. Physiotherapists often work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals and can provide a comprehensive rehabilitation approach.

Physiotherapists in Singapore are regulated by The Allied Health Professions Council.

What are the 3 types of physiotherapy?

The three main types of physiotherapy are musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiovascular and respiratory physiotherapy. You can find all three types of physiotherapists in hospitals. However, most physiotherapists in private clinics would offer primarily musculoskeletal treatment.

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy

Musculoskeletal physiotherapy focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions, such as joint sprains, muscle strains, joint pain, and post-surgical rehabilitation. It involves techniques like manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, stretching, and strengthening to improve joint mobility, reduce pain, and enhance overall musculoskeletal function.

Neurological Physiotherapy

Patients with neurological conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or spinal cord injuries would seek treatment from a neurological physiotherapist. The focus is on improving movement, balance, coordination, and function through specialised exercises, gait training, functional activities, and neuromuscular re-education. Techniques like proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) and Bobath concept may be used in this area.

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Physiotherapy

Physiotherapists specialising in cardiovascular and respiratory physiotherapy will manage conditions related to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It involves assessing and treating individuals with heart and lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or cardiac rehabilitation post-heart surgery. Techniques may include breathing exercises, aerobic conditioning, airway clearance techniques, and education on self-management strategies.

It’s important to note that these three types of physiotherapy are not exhaustive, and there are several other specialized areas within the field, including pediatric physiotherapy, sports physiotherapy, geriatric physiotherapy, and more. The specific type of physiotherapy recommended for an individual will depend on their condition, goals, and the expertise of the physiotherapist. A thorough assessment by a qualified physiotherapist will help determine the most appropriate treatment approach for each individual’s needs.

Who are chiropractors?

Unlike physiotherapists, chiropractors only train in the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders, particularly those related to the spine and nervous system. This include conditions such as neck pain or slipped disc. Chiropractors do not work with patients with heart and lung conditions.

Traditionally. chiropractors use manual adjustment techniques to manipulate the spine and other joints to improve alignment, mobility, and overall musculoskeletal function. Evidence based chiropractors, however, choose to focus on exercise and lifestyle interventions to deliver best outcomes for our clients.

Training to become a physiotherapist or a chiropractor

One key difference between the two professions is their educational background and training. Physiotherapists typically complete a bachelor’s degree program in physiotherapy. You can study physiotherapy in Singapore at the Singapore Institute of Technology. It is a four year programme.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, undergo a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program. The study involves extensive training in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and chiropractic techniques. In Australia, chiropractic students graduate either with a double bachelors or a Masters of Chiropractic. They are both five-your ear programmes.

At this point in time, there is no chiropractic degrees offered in Singapore. To study chiropractic, you will have to undergo your education and training abroad in countries such as Australia, Canada, or the United States.

It is important to note that while chiropractors are trained to perform spinal adjustments, they are not the only healthcare providers trained to provide them. Physiotherapists can opt to pursue postgraduate studies in manipulative techniques to perform spinal manipulative therapy. In other words, both chiropractors and physiotherapists can provide spinal adjustments.

Is exercise part of chiropractic?

chiropractic clinic
Exercise studio of BJ Palmer who is one of the founding fathers of chiropractic You can see the wide variety of exercise equipment used to treat chronic pain Unlike what traditional chiropractors want you to believe exercise is part of chiropractic

Like how physiotherapists can perform spinal manipulation, chiropractors are also trained to provide exercise therapy. In fact, most evidence-based chiropractic training will include exercise rehabilitation as a core part of their curriculum. Exercise has been an integral part of chiropractic care since its founding days. When chiropractic was established by D.D. Palmer in the late 19th century, movement and exercise played a crucial role in maintaining spinal health and overall well-being.

D.D. Palmer himself emphasised the importance of exercise. He advocated for physical activity as a means to support chiropractic adjustments and promote optimal health. Regular exercise is recognised by chiropractic to help improve strength, flexibility, and posture, all of which are essential for maintaining a healthy spine.

Is chiropractic and physiotherapy covered by insurance in Singapore?

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Personal accident insurance plans in Singapore are very affordable You can get coverage from as low as $5616 per year However do not attempt to cheat the insurance company A <a href=httpswwwstraitstimescomsingaporecourts crimeex director of chiropractic firm jailed 8 months over role to cheat insurance target= blank rel=noopener>chiropractor and insurance agent was jailed<a> for defrauding Manulife

The insurance coverage for chiropractors and physiotherapists can vary depending on several factors. Your coverage will vary widely depending on your specific insurance plan and insurance provider. It is best to consult with your insurance provider directly to understand the specifics of your coverage.

Most insurance plans will require a referral from a doctor if you want to make a claim for physiotherapy treatments. It’s important to review your insurance policy or contact your insurance provider to understand the terms and conditions regarding coverage for physiotherapy services.

On the other hand, most insurers do not require a referral letter from a medical doctor when making a claim for chiropractic treatments in. Compared to some other healthcare services, insurers in Singapore have more flexibility when it comes to accessing chiropractic services without the need for a referral.

However, it’s important to note that insurance coverage policies can vary between different insurance providers and plans. While a referral letter may not be a common requirement, it’s still advisable to contact your insurance provider directly to understand the terms and conditions regarding coverage for chiropractic treatments.

Additionally, even if a referral letter is not required for insurance coverage, it’s always beneficial to maintain open communication between your chiropractor and other healthcare professionals involved in your care. This helps ensure a coordinated and comprehensive approach to your healthcare needs.

What is the Difference between a Physiotherapist and a Chiropractor?

jesse cai, chiropractor singaporeThe main difference between a physiotherapist and chiropractor is in their scope of practice. Physiotherapists are train to cover musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory conditions while chiropractors specialise in neuromuscular conditions, particularly those related to the spine and nervous system. The modalities used between the two professions may be different due to practitioner’s preferences but the overlap is high. Physiotherapist can provide spinal adjustments. Similarly, chiropractors offer exercise therapy and has been doing so since the founding days of chiropractic.

Ultimately, the choice between a physiotherapist and a chiropractor depends on individual preferences, the specific condition being treated, and the recommendations of healthcare providers. It’s important to consult with both professionals, if necessary, to determine which approach aligns best with your needs and goals. Collaboration and open communication between healthcare providers can also lead to a more comprehensive and integrated treatment plan.

To book an appointment with our chiropractor, Jesse Cai, please fill out the form below. We are here to help you manage your pain and improve your overall well-being. Our team will get back to you as soon as possible to schedule a convenient time for your visit. We look forward to assisting you on your journey to better health.


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.